I am a person who is always seeking the origins of things in order to understand them better, specially when it comes to my magical practice. With a better understanding of how things work, I am able to give more power to my workings, thus producing excellent and powerful results.
So recently, during a discussion I was having as to why red roses are used for love in Hoodoo, I was met with objection when I brought up the myth of Aphrodite and Adonis, as according to this person, this Greek story has no place in an American practice, thus, by using it, I was ‘disrespecting the tradition’.
Let me start by telling the story, it is said that Ares out of jealousy killed Adonis. Learning of what was done, Aphrodite rushed to his defense and in her haste she ran into a rose-bush and caught herself on its thorns. She pierced the bottom of her foot and the blood changed the the color of the rose to red.
Perhaps people have forgotten as to why we red roses are given during Valentine’s Day and why red is the predominant color to honor this event. Although, not every tradition or culture uses red roses to represent love, and while the color of love was the color green in ancient times, it is this Greek story what has propagated the red rose and the modern usage of the color red as a representation of love to many places across the world.
My rebuttal to this person’s objections is that since Hoodoo is a predominately African-American Christian practice shouldn’t one perhaps adhere to the Christian stories of a rose? Here are a couple of examples where the rose is found in Christian lore:
The Expulsion of Adam and Eve
Saint Ambrose believed that the upon the expulsion of Adam and Eve, God covered Eve’s favorite flower with thorns so that she could never touch it again and became a symbol of the original sin.
“Thorns also and thistles shall [the ground] bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.”
– Genesis, 3:18
The Crown of Thorns
Although nobody can be 100% certain what kind of thorns were used in the the Crown of Thorns at the crucifixion, some say that it could have been made from the Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia Milii), or the Christ’s Thorn Jujube (Ziziphus spina Christi), but recently, some have said that perhaps it might have actually been the rose bush that was used since the flower already grew within the walls of Jerusalem and was the favorite of the Romans which they found befitting of a king, thus, the red rose symbolizes the blood and agony of the crucifixion of Jesus.
This beautiful flower is called the Queen of Flowers and in Christianity it has become an image for the Blessed Mother herself as she is sometimes called a ‘Rose Without Thorns' in which many cathedrals include a rose window to represent her. Saint Dominic later created the 'Crown of Roses' after a Marian apparition, a praying tool we call the Rosary.
So why is the red rose used to represent love in Hoodoo when it should represent martyrdom and/or sacrifice? Perhaps it was during the Victorian era and the allure of Cupid (Son of Venus and Mars) and the roses they carried that helped maintain the beauty of the story of Aphrodite’s love for Adonis as a symbol of love that inducted it into the American culture.
"…because ROSE scent is so sensually stimulating, women bathe with ROSE WATER to draw men close, and witches set it out in altar bowls to honour Venus Aphrodite, the ancient Goddess of Love and Desire.”
– Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
In another story, Eros gave a rose to Harpocrates, the Greek God of Silence, to bribe him so that he would not disclose to anyone the god’s indiscretions, specially his mother’s (Aphrodite). Later, in Roman times, the rose was used in the ceiling of banquet rooms and was understood that anything said under the rose (sub rosa) was meant to be kept within those walls and in secrecy.
We can find this symbolism in today’s churches as stated above, but when seen on top of confessionals it denotes that what is said will remain secret.
The power of the red rose is so overwhelming that it has been banned in many places, only to be found on the black markets of Saudi Arabia and being delivered under the cover of night, harkening back to the time where Aphrodite overcame the pain of the thorns to rush to her dying Adonis.
These Greek myths of the rose have maintained their meaning throughout several centuries, and later in Hoodoo. Use a rose to demand silence, create protection, and promote love. But no matter what tradition you practice…
"Let anyone who cherishes the red rose for its representation of love remember Aphrodite’s wound."
– Docteur Cæli D’Anto